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A Revolting Fantasy?: The Irish Political Review ain’t so fond of The Lost Revolution November 10, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Irish Politics, The Left.

Quite a telling review by Brendan Clifford of The Lost Revolution in the latest edition of the Irish Political Review. And worth a read for anyone with an interest in the broader dynamics which the book has brought to the fore. And before I forget, interesting that the Sunday Independent review, which I hope one of my colleagues will be looking at in some detail very soon, starts from a not dissimilar place.

Let’s note though that the heading “A Revolting Fantasy” gives a small taste of the attitude to the book therein. It begins then as it continues:

As we go to print The Lost Revolution: The Story Of The Official IRA And The Workers’ Party, written by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar has been published by Penguin Books. One would expect the sequence of events from August 1969 to the Arms Trials to be at the core of any account of the Officials. Unfortunately this book is written capriciously, verbose- ly, at great length, and with scant referenc- ing. Hanley is now a lecturer at the Queen’s University in Belfast, which is a great place for gossip. And the book is of the Dubhairt bean liom go dubhairt bean lei [a woman told me that a woman told her] kind.

This emphasis on the Arms Crisis is curious since it is hardly the pivotal moment in the overall story, or rather one might argue no more so than internal ideological developments within SF and the IRA or the changing socio-political environment in Northern Ireland or the broader influence of the late 1960s on activism and concepts of democracy and rights. Even in the absence of the interventions by sections of the Dublin political establishment it is hardly credible that no split would have occurred or that the resulting formations would not have established some links, however informal, with those sections.  We are, however, treated to half a page on it followed by the conclusion that the authors have misrepresented or misinterpreted the reason for the acquittal of Captain Kelly.

(p.137-141) goes something like this. The Cabinet in August 1969 set up a Committee with £100,000 for “humanitarian aid to nationalists, which Blaney and Haughey effectively controlled”. Cathal Goulding, IRA Chief-of-Staff, was told that arms were available for him in London. He met Haughey’s brother there who told him money was available. Goulding said that at least £50,000 was needed. He was given £1,500 cash and told more would come. A Fianna Fail businessman in Dundalk said £150,000 would be available if the IRA stopped its activities in the South and gave up left-wing politics.

As time moves on the small problem that this view was not shared throughout the FF leadership seems to me to grow ever more important. So, yes, a section in FF were happy – perhaps – to support a more traditionalist IRA, but that view was restricted even within FF. What greater lesson are we supposed to draw?

I’m not unaware of the fact that for some inside the party there was indeed a great stress on the FF connection, and nor as we shall see in the next United Irishman that is posted up in the Left Archive did that manifest late in the day, but… even given those two points this emphasis on the Arms Trial seems to be almost a diversion from the broader societal dynamics occurring at that time in the North and more broadly.

In September Captain Kelly renewed the contact and offered Irish Army training for IRA Volunteers on the condition that independent IRA training ceased. In September 1969 IRA men from Derry were trained at Fort Dunree. Captain Kelly was then active in Belfast, offering arms and money, but he reported to Dublin that these were getting into the wrong hands, “meaning elements hostile to the Southern government”. He preferred Tom Conaty, and Hugh Kennedy of Bord Bainne who was PRO for the CCDC (Central Citizens’ Defence Committee).

Captain Kelly made another visit and said that four members of the IRA leadership would have to go before more money was supplied (Goulding, Costello, Ryan and Johnston), and a separate Northern Command should be established. Captain Kelly later asked how they could expect a Government to give them arms to overthrow it.

I’ve always thought that by Captain Kelly’s lights that was a fair point for him to make. But, it shows a remarkable lack of insight on his part that he’d express that sentiment to the specific parties. And there surely is little surprise that…

…relations soured.


…the promise of arms and money had an effect on new recruits in Belfast who only wanted “to defend their areas, or indeed to gain revenge for the attacks on their localities”. And so the split happened.

Ten pages follow about the sorting out into Stickies and Provos. Then suddenly, out of the blue, without reference to what the Dublin Government had itself been doing in the meantime:

“Southern government and those who became the Provisionals were brought to public attention during     1970. By May Charles Haughey, Neil Blaney and Kevin Boland had either resigned or been sacked from government for their part in the scheme. Haughey, along with Military Intelligence officer Captain James Kelly, Belfast Provisional John Kelly and Flemish businessman Albert Luykx eventually faced trial for their part in the operation. A jury, unconvinced that the men had not been working with official sanction, and caught up in the wave of sympathy for Northern Catholics, acquitted the four in Dublin’s High Court” (p152.)”

In fact Captain Kelly was acquitted because his military superior gave evidence that he acted under orders in his efforts to import arms covertly from the Continent. The others were acquitted for lack of evidence against them. John Kelly became a Provo in the aftermath of the shambles caused by the prosecution. And nothing at all came to light at the Trials about collusion with Republicans etc.

The North was thrown into flux in August 1969, and the South was seriously disoriented. There is very little firm ground during the following years. There is what Lynch promised/threatened as the crisis in the North was approaching a climax. There is the fact that the IRA, redeploying for an ill-conceived version of class war, was ineffectual, and was discredited in the areas it failed o defend against an attack it helped to provoke. There is the fact of what the Irish Army was instructed by the Government to do during the nine months after August. And there is the evidence tested by cross-examination at the Arms Trials. If all of that is set aside as irrelevant by a historian, what is left to him but a kind of gossip shaped by hindsight?

As I’ve noted last week the idea that the IRA ‘helped provoke’ the events of August 1969 remains a fairly unique view of the historical record. But clearly opinions within Aubane have not shifted on the matter since the early 1970s. One can applaud that consistency of outlook without in any sense agreeing with the analysis.

Then there is an implicit suggestion that NICRA and associated activities were responsible. Such a charge seems contradictory given that BICO spent considerable effort attempting to argue that only within a UK context could ‘rights’ be protected (and it is implied elsewhere by BICO – and indeed on the CLR last week –  that these rights were vastly superior to those available south of the border) and NICRA and (at this point overwhelmingly) the IRA were operating within the constitutional constraints of British democracy.

Whether their defense was a failure or not is a different matter again but it seems ahistorical to argue that the IRA was redeploying for a ‘class war’ in 1969, at least in the North. What has been clear in recent studies is that there was a generalised damping down of armed IRA activity, and indeed a drift away from the movement, during the 1960s, in the wake of the Border campaign that began to ramp back up again <em>in the South</em> and to a lesser extent than in the North (with NICRA effectively doing the heavy lifting in terms of engaging with the Stormont state). The quiescence of the IRA during those years was as much a virtue of necessity as a clear programme although such a programme of increased politicisation with a tactical use of violence does appear in nascent form in the mid to late 1960s. But a cynical gaze might cause one to arrive at the conclusion that all the documents on the future direction of the movement were as much about generating activity as being indicative of it.

But the central charge appears to be one where the IRA is damned if it didn’t engage and damned if it did.

As to ‘evidence’ on the Arm Trial being ‘irrelevant’, irrelevant to what? Clifford himself notes that:

On October 30th the IRA went public on this at a press conference in Dublin, and exposed the “‘plot to take over the civil rights movement'”, naming Blaney, Haughey and Boland. The United Irishman reminded its readers that Fianna Fail had “climbed to power on the backs of Republicans on the pretext that they were sincerely trying to reunite Ireland”

So it’s hard to know what his point about nothing coming to light about ‘collusion with Republicans’ is in reference to. If the Republicans themselves were advertising the fact publicly it is hardly their fault if the institutions of the Irish state in a legal matter separate to, but linked in with, their activities didn’t focus on that particular aspect of the relationship.

Then there is an approach which seems a trifle self-referential.

The B&ICO appears here and there in Hanley’s story of the Stickies. The way it appears enables us to assess the quality of the general narrative.
It tells us (p62) that Liam Walsh, Phil Flynn, Frank Keane, Eamon McCann, Michael Farrell and Brendan Clifford were members of the Irish Communist Group, formed in the mid-1960s. Of these six only one was unquestionably a member. And, even by stretching a point, only two others could be included.

I don’t know the truth of this, and given the fluidity of membership of left movements perhaps we never will,  but it doesn’t strike me as a matter of enormous significance given the respective weight of B&ICO and the Republican movement in the 1960s. One was very small indeed. The other had a considerable membership. That doesn’t gift the latter with the truth, but it does mean that the formal and functional characteristics of the two were quite distinct.

Or what of this?

During that Spring, in the months lead-ing up to the major breakdown in the North, Dennis [Dennehy]was a kind of Dublin folk-hero. When he was interviewed on Radio Eireann he refused to appear as anything but a Communist. For a couple of years before this the ICO made a practice of selling its magazine at the GPO, giving it the title The Irish Communist so that there could be no doubt about what it was. After an initial attempt at intimidation, the Garda stopped interfering with the public selling but informal harrassment continued. The events of January 1969, and what followed from them, transformed the public atmos-phere, and established a de facto right of Communists to public existence. Associated with the ICO in 1968-9 was a fearless group of Trinity radicals called The Internationalists, who had demonstrat-ed against a state visit by the King of the Belgians, and who went on mission around the country, like Jacobins in France in 1792, with the purpose of livening things up. Many of them became members of the ICO. What was done by the ICO and The Internationalists was done independently of the IRA, and without reference to it. And, insofar as it is sensible to talk of there being a revolutionary atmosphere in the State in 1968-9, it was caused by the public agitational activity of the ICO and the Internationalists, rather than by the occasional physical force intervention by the IRA in a strike, or the intimidation of a German farmer. (The most effective Republican action of those years was the attack on a British warship on a courtesy visit by Richard Behal—for which Behal was courtmartial-led and deported by the IRA.)

Hmmm… hard to believe – and this is in no way to denigrate Dennehy’s work – that it was the ICO alone which allowed for the ideology that apparently dare not speak its name to finally appear publicly in Irish society. Which is not to say there isn’t something in the idea that the very term ‘communist’ was marginalised in the extreme – and fascinating how within SF and the IRA it was never articulated in quite those terms even much later in the day, if ever.

And one could query what precisely was ‘effective’ in the action against the ‘warship’ (the Brave class of torpedo boats were not quite warships, war boats perhaps – now granted I’m being overly pedantic, but…)… given that Behal’s court martial was not over that attack (indeed as TLR notes the subsequently unlikely duo of Garland and MacStiofáin were sent in the October following the Brave Borderer incident to attack another Royal Navy vessel) but over subsequent actions in the South including, a fire-bomb thrown into the gym of Collins Barracks, in direct contravention of a 1954 IRA policy not to conduct attacks in the South and engage with the Irish state.

What’s a little surprising at this remove, given subsequent writings, is to see the ordure heaped upon the Officials and a markedly less belligerent tone taken as regards the Provisionals.

As we recall it, the term ‘National Liberation’ was used by the Officials as an indicator of Marxist orientation for the purpose of suggesting that the military activity which they were preparing to engage in in the North was different in kind from what the new Republican body, the Provos, were preparing to do. The Stickies were the National Liberationists, the Provos were Nationalists and were, it was suggested, a kind of sub-group of Fianna Fail. We could see no difference in concept between National Liberation and Nationalism. It seemed to us that the Officials had lost themselves in their new political jargon and had entered into a fantasy world. We had a shared experience with Provos —that is with people who would become Provos as a consequence of their experience —in the defence of the Falls area in August 1969. Early in 1970 we had a discussion with some leaders of the Provo movement in Belfast, as it was taking definite shape, about what should be done. By then we were notorious as ‘the two-nationists’. This did not seem to matter to the Provos, who knew what we had done in August and who also had direct experience of social realities in Belfast. It was official nationalist Ireland in all its varieties (including the Officials) who responded hysterically, or by going into denial, to the suggestion that the Ulster Protestants were a stubborn community with a will of their own.

One also wonders given the embedded nature of Official Republicanism in the North during the 1969 to 1973 period (and after, but to a diminishing degree) as well as its clear ability to mobilise both politically and militarily how sound the implicit assessment that it did not have ‘direct experience of social realities’ in Belfast is.

Or how about this which phrases it in a slightly different way?

The People’s Democracy saw itself as operating beyond traditional, or established, political structures and divisions. When it came up against those structures as immoveable obstacles, it began to fragment. Some of its members went to the B&ICO and others to the Provisionals, these being the two organisations whose positions corresponded with experienced reality. Some retreated to private life. We can think of only one who possibly went from the PDs to the Stickies, and he was done in by the Stickies in their war on the IRSP.

Eoin O Murchu is damned with faint praise…

The Official strategist who “delved into Marxist ideas on cultural identity” and disagreed with the ICO was Eoin O Murchu. Hanley gives no hint of O Murchu’s argument against the ICO position and we do not recall it. O Murchu later left the Stickies for the CommunistParty, which was a move towards com- monsense, and he has for many years been one of the better journalists in the Southern media.

Brian Hanley – for it appears from the text of this review that Scott Millar had no hand or part in the work – is just damned (I exaggerate, but only slightly)…

Hanley gives what we take to be quotations from ICO publications, but gives no reference for them. Although the quotations are possibly accurate, there is no way of checking them. This is the academic procedure used by Hanley throughout.

Although in fairness to Clifford, to my mind the referencing system in TLR could have been improved… perhaps that’s for the second edition to remedy.

The UWC strike is considered, even at this remove as a positive and….

Strike notice was published in the Unionist papers in March 1974. It said that, unless the establishment of the Coun-cil of Ireland was deferred, or an election to the devolved Assembly was held for the purpose of ratifying it, there would be a “Constitutional stoppage” in May. The SDLP and the Dublin Coalition decided to carry on regardless. They refused to negotiate on the Council of Ireland with a view to preserving power-sharing. The Strike began, as advertised, in mid-May. It was unofficial, condemned by the Union leaders, and organised by the shop stewards. The successful operations of the policy of Greaves and the Commun-ist Party had made the Union leadership unrepresentative of the Union member-ship. The leader of the British TUC led a strike-breaking back-to-work march which was a complete failure. The SDLP Ministers in the Government described the Strike as a Fascist insurrection, and the Secretary of State, Labour’s Merlyn Rees, went along with that view. The policy of the Government, both real and devolved, was to precipitate chaos in the hope of turning public opinion against the strikers. The B&ICO, when it saw that the Strike was a genuine working class event and not a repetition of the attempted Vanguard disruptions, and when the Strike began to be denounced in hysterical terms as Fascism, [an interesting rationale in and of itself, and a reactive one – wbs] began to issue Strike Bulletins to explain from day to day what the Government was trying to do and how it might be countered. These Bulletins had mass circulation during the critical period. When the Strike held firm, and was not provoked into going beyond its initial demand, which was as democratic as anything could be in a Constitutional set-up that was undemocratic, the Government position became unsustainable. The Protestant community—all classes became actively supportive of the Strike. It became a national event, as Strikes in nationalist Ireland had been in the War of Independence. The ground fell away from the Unionist Party in the devolved Government, and Brian Faulkner resigned the Prime Ministership. The Deputy Prime Minister—Gerry Fitt, leader of the SDLP —declared himself willing to be Prime Minister and hold the line against Fascism. But in the ‘Northern Ireland state’ it is always another body that decides what to do. The Secretary of State of the actual State, Merlyn Rees, decided at that juncture to scrap the entire Sunningdale structure, which had not been a Strike demand. The UWC had never been negotiated with on its actual Strike demand.

A national event – eh? As strikes during the WoI had been. And therefore a good thing. Now there’s food for thought.

Curiously though I need only go to Don Anderson’s book, Fourteen May Days: The Inside Story of the Loyalist Strike of 1974, available here on CAIN, to read that from a loyalist perspective the basis of the strike actions were as follows:

Support for the stoppage in the shipyard was largely confined to a couple of hundred stagers in the shipyard. These were the men who erected scaffolding or staging round a ship under construction and as a group had the reputation of being hardliners. A meeting was called for ten o’clock in the morning at the head of the large building dock. Consistent with the feeling in the yard it was sparsely attended and adjourned as a flop. The organisers called another meeting for lunchtime but this time the stagers went round the buildings and plants drumming up support and there was a larger attendance at the second meeting. Those against the strike did not have much opportunity to vote against it.The motion put to the workers was whether or not they were against the Sunningdale agreement and in a mainly Protestant workforce the outcome was predictable. ‘That’s it. You’re out,’ said the platform.

This doesn’t appear to leave much space for negotiations on the UWC’s ‘actual Strike demand’.

There’s some genuinely entertaining stuff… for example:

It may be that some Stickies came to realise that what they denounced us for saying about the Ulster Protestants in 1969 was not a figment of the imagination, or a product of Orange patronage—that, if put under extreme nationalist pressure they would resist with the stubbornness of a durable nationality. When they went to war their ideology began to break up against the facts of life. But, if they began to see that BICO had it right, that led to no lessening of hostility against BICO. The threats continued into the 1990s. The last one we recall was issued by a person of considerable importance who in his public relations facade has a neat line of patter on the evil of terrorism of every sort and description.

Fascinating. Or what of this completely unrelated jibe?

And so on to page 340:
“The Irish Industrial Revolution redefined SFWP [Sinn Fein, Workers’ Party] ideology. Many members, particularly those attached to the Industrial Department and the para- military structure, eagerly adopted its thesis. As one activist recalls, ‘The Industrial Revolution was our Bible, it won people over’. The brutal simplicity of its core demand, for rapid industrial- ization through central planning, showed a debt to Stalin. It also drew liberally on the output of the B&ICO…”
As we took little heed of it at the time, and do not have a copy to hand, we cannot comment.


And to conclude, a comment which argues against one interpretation with another that is remarkably close to the original, which some might see as being near-indistinguishable, but which Clifford clearly believes is of great significance and entirely distinct, followed by a completely unexpected and not clearly relevant tangent.

PS Hanley says on page 206 that, when the ICO adopted the Two Nations position, “The organization accordingly changed its name to the British and Irish Communist Organisation”. The change of name had nothing to do with the Two Nations. It had to do with what we saw as a relapse of the 26 Counties into a very weak neo-colonial dependency on Britain, so that the determining socio-political realities would only be visible from a British & Irish vantage point. This was explained at the time in a policy document. In those days the Irish budget was a follow-on from the British budget. Irish money was British money. A rate of exchange between the two was scarcely imaginable. And Ireland had surrendered itself into the British world market. The great change that occurred subsequently was based on Irish entry into the protected European market, combined with the political will of Charles Haughey in the exercise of political power.

In a way this exemplifies the problems of the review, in that it is so focused on the intersection between B&ICO and Official Republicanism that it appears to miss a considerable part of the wood for the trees. Which is also curious, in that if one turns to the index of TLR one will discover that the ICO has five references and BICO has three. There is no sense of the historical relevance of the Officials or the WP and the fact that they became the most successful left wing political group left of Labour to date. There is no detailed critique of the changing ideology of the WP and little or nothing about the politics of this. Indeed the perspective is so narrowly limited to one viewpoint that it’s greater application is difficult to discern.

That said Clifford’s review has one great strength, other than the typical enthusiasm which characterises the IPRs output, which is that by positing such a narrow engagement with the original text it allows for a more detailed appraisal of it by others. This provides a useful insight into the thought processes of B&ICO and their relationship with Official Republicanism. That it doesn’t go further – and given the wealth of knowledge within Aubane on such matters it certainly could – constitutes a genuine lost opportunity.

Lest this seem like an unfair critique of the IPR let me add that there’s an interesting piece by Edward Longwill on the RTÉ “Invasion” programme that I intend to return to again (albeit as noted in the comments on a different thread we’re also promised more on that topic by the IPR).


1. Mark P - November 10, 2009

The post-BICO crew have been described as many things over the years, but rarely before can anyone have accused them of an admirable “consistency of outlook”!


2. Starkadder - November 10, 2009

‘…combined with the political will of Charles Haughey in the exercise of political power.”

The Great Man Theory of History, how are ye!

Interestingly, I read the ICG mag “An Solas” years ago and
Brendan Clifford (and his wife) were definetly involved
in that organisation. Very odd that no-one other
than Sean Matgamna mentions Clifford’s brief sojourn as a disciple of Michael McCreery.


3. Jim Monaghan - November 10, 2009

On afootnote PD did not take much heed of the ICO/BICO. The mainly Dublin based RMG did.The Marxist Review had at least one article where they took on the BICO analysis of Irish economic development. I remember vaguely arguments about whether there was feudalism in Celtic Ireland.A lot of it was around whethher Connollys analysis of Celtic Ireland as being non feudal was correct. A friend told me that it was a seperate stystem. He said that the clearances/plantations proved this because in other parts of Europe the peasants were seen as part of the property. There is proabaly more to it than that. He also said that the Norman invasion should be seen in the pattern of the Criusades ( like the Teutonic Knights in the Slav lands to the East).
The arguements though sometimes obtuse were of a high intellectual standard. You had to read a lot of background stuff to keep up.


4. splinteredsunrise - November 10, 2009

Ho ho. I’ve just read that review, and even by the IPR’s standards it’s a real stinker. A narrow focus, indeed.


5. Starkadder - November 10, 2009

“Unfortunately this REVIEW is written capriciously, verbose- ly, at great length, and with scant referenc- ing….It seemed to us that the B&ICO had lost themselves in their new political jargon and had entered into a fantasy world.”

Fixed that for Brendan. 😉

The Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations
by Peter Barberis, John McHugh and Mike Tyldesley has
a diffent perspective on the ICO/B&ICO name change:

BICO started life as the Irish Communist Organisation. In 1971 it
merged with its British section, the
Communist Workers Organisation (CWO).
.Pg. 432

As for Clifford’s claim that “we” took little heed of SFWP’s
ideas, he might want to look at the hated Irish Times for
Nov. 13 1978. The article
“Six Left-Wing Groups Discuss Differences” mentions a SFWP member and
a B&ICO member agreeing on the issue of multi-nationals
being needed to industrialise Ireland.


6. WorldbyStorm - November 10, 2009

Nice one Starkadder… 🙂


7. No.11 - November 12, 2009
Tim - November 12, 2009

so…. the WP were not Communists then?
And neither was PdR?


8. Ratata - November 12, 2009

Kev Obviously still not got over being told to get out of Belfast by Billy McMillian


9. WorldbyStorm - November 12, 2009

I’ve a few thoughts on that… maybe later at the weekend…


10. Ratata - November 12, 2009

Look forward to it WBS. You may also wish to bring into consideration young McDonald’s attempts to recently rewrite and verbally attack WP and TLR – these are known of in Belfast and visable in his scribblings. An axis of evil BS emerges – Harris/Myers/McDonald.


WorldbyStorm - November 12, 2009

Yeah, I find that a bit inexplicable about McDonald. Mind you he’s an equal opportunities guy in that respect. He hates the Provo’s too… I presume it’s the Republicanism of both groups.


Ramzi Nohra - November 13, 2009

has mcdonald actually written a review of TLR? couldnt find it with a quick google search.


Starkadder - November 13, 2009

Does Henry McDonald have any WP or B&ICO connections?


11. Starkadder - November 12, 2009

Judging by the Sindo and IPR articles, TLR is
“upsetting all the right people”.. 😉


WorldbyStorm - November 12, 2009

Very true…. 🙂


Ramzi Nohra - November 13, 2009

indeed. They’re a good class of “enemy” to have, although thats putting it too far. Actually the sindo article was pretty low and sloppy, above all else. It has been dwelling on my mind and irritating me over recent days. i am now virtually incanescent with rage. I think I need to get out more…


12. Jim Monaghan - November 13, 2009

The rumour that Myers was told to get out of Belfast by McMillen actually detracts from the image of the WP etc. being peaceloving.


13. Dr. X - November 13, 2009

Myers, let’s not forget, was a keen and outspoken defender of the Nigerian military government’s decision to execute Ken Saro-Wiwa.

His protestations about support for despotic government have about as much value about Claude Rains’ expressions of outrage on discovering that gambling is taking place in Bogart’s casino.

(when I worked in Birmingham in 2006 I knew some academics specialising in West African issues; they told me that KSW was no saint, as it’s impossible to be in politics in Nigeria and have clean hands (remind you of anywhere else?) but that with regard to the specific charges he was accused of and hanged for, he was the victim of a stitch-up).


14. Ratata - November 13, 2009

Who has ever said the OIRA was peaceloving Jim? It’s about the correct use of violence not the need for it we can argue.


15. Wilcox - November 16, 2009

The SWP declares TLR “recommended reading.”


A fairly extensive two part interview with one of the authors.




16. Jim Monaghan - November 16, 2009

Ratata – November 13, 2009
Who has ever said the OIRA was peaceloving Jim? It’s about the correct use of violence not the need for it we can argue.
Dear R
I am dubious about threats to a journalist whatever his opinions. Myers then was quite sympa to the Northern struggle, but even if he was not he should not have been threatened.. Aside form that there is no evidence of him doing anything untoward. Afaik the only journalist to be killed in the North was by Loyalists, again the Loyalist are basically gangsters. There is little record of any serious threats been made from the “nationalist” side except maybe the odd pub talk. An official threat by MacMillan should be deplored. I sort of respected MacMillan and regretted his death. The resurrection of this threat if it was made is disturbing both with regard to MacMillans reputation as well as the tone of approval with which it was mentioned.
On peaceloving, well the Officials have recast themselves as peacelovers, not me.


17. Frank Rosewell - November 16, 2009

‘Afaik the only journalist to be killed in the North was by Loyalists’

But he was an ex-Official Jim!


18. Jim Monaghan - November 16, 2009

The point is that he should not have been killed in either capacity.


19. John O'Neill - November 17, 2009

Jim isn’t it a wee bit contradictory at that time to have been a PIRA sympathiser and and voice your outright concern over an alleged threat to a journalist when, at the time the PIRA were engaged in murdering/threatening on a pretty extensive scale.

Myers himself spends his all time attacking PSF, blaming them on every murder during the ‘armed struggle’ as if loyalist parmilitaries never existed and, at the same time, glorifying the first world war where more died for nothing in a half hour at the Somme than did in the entire 30 years in the North


20. Jim Monaghan - November 17, 2009

I did not support the armed campaign. I regarded it as a cul de sac. I recognised the fact that a large section of the nationalist population did.I felt throughout that the support of this section was not sufficient for victory against Imperialism.Oh, I argued with many down the years that things like Birminghan and Enniskillen were atrocities while doing so I refused to demonise an entire movement and the mass base it had.The root of the problem is Imperialism.. While having this disagreement with PSF I felt it was my duty to support the prisoners especially. The campaign arose out of the repression of the nationalist population.There is a truth in the slogan ” out of the ashes of Bombay street….” If I had supported the campaign I would have either joined PSF or the IRSP. I sometimes refer to myself as a ’72 stick. Republican but not militarist. I am not a pacifist but the conditions have to be right to launch an armed struggle.
My politics are of course a bit more complex.It would be nice to have a distinct proletarian army with correct politics that wages a “good” war but alas reality tends to be a bit messy.
The alleged threat to Myers came from someone I would think was Official alligned. perhaps you could look at the thread.
On a general note I would oppose gangsterism against all comers. The problem of any struggle no matter how justified is the ease at which abuses can occur. As for Major Myers, I part company with him on a host of issues.I would regard 1916 as being responsible for making conscription impossible and thus saving amny Irush lives, well worth the sacrifice on this basis alone.


Mark P - November 18, 2009

Oh come on Jim.

You did not support the armed struggle? What the hell were you doing in PD then, during a period when their line was one of fervent support for the armed struggle (along with a bit of hand wringing about how it could be better pushed forward or equipped with better politics)?


21. John O'Neill - November 18, 2009

In the same way I could say the OIRA/OSF/WP were responsible for resisting the Provo armed struggle and thus saving many Irish lives, well worth their sacrifices/tactics on this basis alone.


22. Jim Monaghan - November 18, 2009

PD recognised the fact that a large section of the Nationalist masses were challenging Imperialism.I refuse to put them into the same bracket as the Loyalists or Imperialism. Full stop.

A friend has incapsulated 3 basic premises.

“My own approach would be more basic:
[1] One community in the north was oppressed and one the oppressor, by any reckoning &
[2] The British state was not neutral in the conflict &
[3] The Irish state came to see Irish republicanism as the main enemy.”

Which of those do you challenge.Obviously they can be developed but I believe they stand.The Officials moved form this position to seeing the Provos and their allies (Yes, PD worked on common positions with the Provos) as the main enemny.
The National struggle is in abeyance because of the compromise between the Provo leadership and Imperialism but the underlying fault lines still exist and it behoves the elft to analyse them. But then you probably see a “pure” insurrection coming from an expanded version of Tuesdays day of action.


23. Garibaldy - November 18, 2009


I think there was a move to see sectarianism and sectarian violence as the main enemy. I would also note of course that the overwhelming majority of Irish people rejected what the Provisionals were about, something that seems to be forgotten on here sometimes.

I think class cuts heavily across the idea of oppressed and oppressor communities as well.


Starkadder - November 19, 2009

A lot of this debate about the rightness of the “armed struggle”
is before my time,since I grew up in Cork in the 80s’ and ’90s and
Northern Ireland was,for a long time, the place on the news with the explosions.
And certainly, my parents,teachers and the other adults I knew would only mention the IRA with complete abhorrence.


24. Starkadder - November 18, 2009

The Nov. Issue of History Ireland states it has a letter by
Angela Clifford about Captain Kelly & arms importation on
its website,but it doesn’t seem to be up there yet.
A shame-
I wanted to see the Patrick Maume letter that was there
as well. 😦


25. shane - November 18, 2009

Can anyone please inform me of somewhere where I can buy the Irish Political Review. I have read Church & State a few times, but I can never get hold of any other of Aubane’s publications. Any shops in Dublin selling it?


Mark P - November 18, 2009

Books Upstairs on College Green stock it.


shane - November 18, 2009



26. Starkadder - November 19, 2009

“if put under extreme nationalist pressure they would resist with the stubbornness of a durable nationality.”

And why are the B&ICO’s successors running lengthy articles calling for
a United Ireland then?


27. Starkadder - December 11, 2009

Slightly B&ICO related: Professor Nina Fishman, who used to be
a B&ICO member in the early 1970s before becoming a
Labour historian and anti-Thatcher activist, has passed away.




28. ejh - October 9, 2010

I don’t know if this has been mentioned elsewhere, but The Lost Revolution is reviewed by Daniel Finn in the current issue – 7 October – of the London Review of Books. (Online access is subscribers-only, I’m afraid, though if anybody from this site wants to be sent a copy of it, they can email me for same.)


Mark P - October 9, 2010

I would do so, but don’t have your email address!(Mine is scrawledincrayon AT yahoo DOT com).


ejh - October 9, 2010

OK, you should hopefully be in receipt of same.


29. Wilburforce Pratelbag - October 11, 2010
30. PJ - February 8, 2011

Public meeting

and discussion

Teachers Club

Friday, 11 February

7. 30pm

What is Northern Ireland?
Nicholas Mansergh Changes His Mind

By Brendan Clifford


31. The Labour Party And The Official IRA – They Haven’t Gone Away, You Know « An Sionnach Fionn - August 23, 2011

[…] exercise at which their Irish puppies happily wagged their tails (and some still do). They also managed to infiltrate several key areas in Ireland’s news media […]


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